History of
USS PYRO (AE-24)

Named for the Greek word for fire.

Displacement 8,300 tons: Length 512'; Beam 72'; Draft 29'; Speed 20 knots; Complement 316; Armament 2-Twin 31Ix500) Rapid Fire AA; Class Suribachi.

The second Pyro (AE-24), an ammunition ship, was laid down 21 October 1957 by Bethleham-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Md.; launched 5 November 1958; sponsored by Mrs. Stuart H. Ingersoll; and commissioned 24 July 1 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Norfolk, Va., Captain Robert A. Patton in command. After fitting out at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Pyro moved from local operations at Norfolk to Earle, N.J. to take on ammunition, then proceeded to shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba through 30 October. She called at San Juan and Kingston before transiting the Panama Canal to report to Service Force, Pacific for duty. Steaming via Lima, Peru and Acapulco, Mexico, she arrived San Diego 4 December 1959. The fourth of a new class of ammunition ships designed from the hull up for carrying and transferring at sea the latest in munitions and guided missiles, Pyro spent the last part of December undergoing final sea trials at San Francisco.

At Port Chicago, Calif. Pyro offloaded her cargo, then spent the month of January 1960) at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Through February the ship was at Port Chicago making preparations for her first West Pac deployment. She departed late that month, calling at Pearl Harbor; Sasebo, Yokosuka, Kobe, and Iwakuni, Japan; and at Okinawa and Hong Kong, while fulfilling her assigned tasks and providing underway replenishment services to various units of the 7th Fleet before returning to Concord, Calif. 15 August 1960.

A three month overhaul commenced 21 March at Willamette Iron and Steel Co. Shipyard, Richmond, Calif. Pyro then departed on her second West Pac deployment 9 August 1961 and again serviced units of the 7th Fleet, returning to Concord, 1 March 1962. Local operations such as exercise "Pork Barrel," in May, provided realistic tests of the capabilities of the ships of the Service Force. Pyro has subsequently made annual deployments to West Pac since 8 October 1962. Much of her at sea time was spent on Yankee Station in support of 7th Fleet Units operating off the coast of Vietnam.

She entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard 9 September 1963 for installation of a revolutionary new weapons transfer system called FAST--Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer. The new system proved its worth during her fourth West Pac deployment, 12 January through 17 June 1964. For her outstanding performance in servicing 7th, Fleet units during the period 5 December 1964 through 23 October 1965 when she conducted 227 ammunition unreps she received the "Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon"

Pyro's primary mission is to rearm aircraft carriers and surface combatant ships at sea normally by means of connected replenishment (CONREP) wherein customer ships steam close alongside and received either tensioned or non-tensioned wire rope rigs upon which ammunition is passed. USS Pyro also uses the vertical replenishment (VERTREP) transfer method in which helicopters picked up loads from Pyro's flight deck and carry them to customer ships. Secondary ship missions include at-sea refueling from a single refueling hose rigged at one of the transfer kingposts. The ship's numerous booms also make Pyro well suited to conduct pier side repositioning of ammunition and stores for fleet units at sea. Pyro has mostly been assigned to U. S. Pacific Fleet and reported directly to Commander Combat Logistics Group One. Her homeport is Naval Weapons Station Concord, California, and frequently moors at Naval Bases in the San Francisco Bay area.

Pyro has subsequently completed eighteen highly successful deployments to the Western Pacific. The first and last seven deployments were designed to maintain fleet readiness. The fifth through eleventh deployments were in support of the Seventh Fleet in combatant missions during the Vietnam conflict. Throughout her career Pyro has repeatedly set and broken performance records for ammunition ships. In slightly more than one year May 1965 through August 1966, USS Pyro broke her own replenishment record and the Fleet's no less than six times, while working with various aircraft carriers off the coast of Vietnam coast. During this period she built her transfer rate from 141.8 tons per hour to over 312 tons per hour~ while operating mainly at night. During her 1972 deployment, Pyro set another Navy record by servicing 364 ships and transferring over 36~000 tons of ammunition.

Pyro's 1974 deployment saw her assuming the additional role of providing fuel as well as ordnance to the Fleet. Pumping 650,000 gallons of fuel to receiving ships, Pyro set a new record at the time for non-oilers in refueling Seventh Fleet Units. On her 1976 deployment, Pyro's new role was as primary support ship to conduct the redistribution of pre-positioned war reserve ordnance stored at Ekego and Yokosuka Japan to Sasebo, Japan and Subic Bay, R.P. More than 7,800 tons of ordnance was distributed in record time and with perfect safety.

After returning to the United States following her fifteenth West Pac trip in June 1980, Pyro was transferred to the Naval Reserve Force in August of that year for the weekend and active duty training of selected Naval Reservists and to support East Pac operations. Following a ten-month regular overhaul from July 1981 to April 1982, Pyro was returned to active duty status on 1 June 1982.

Pyro has deployed three times since, twice to the Western Pacific, in 1983 and 1985, and most recently a 6 month deployment to the Indian Ocean as part of Battle Group Foxtrot which conducted Operation "Praying Mantis" in the Persian Gulf region in April of 1988. Pyro again set a new record for ammunition ships that same year for remaining at sea for 117 straight days.

USS Pyro's thirtieth anniversary was marked by the addition of women to the crew after a short overhaul in the summer of 1989. Pyro was finally decommissioned for naval service in 1994. After a brief career as a USNS vessel she was removed from all service and put to rest with the Reserve Fleet at Benicia, California within sight of her old berth at the ammunition loading docks of Naval Weapons Station Concord.

On Jan 25th, 2012 the Pyro was moved to Mare Island to prepare for final disposition, on Feb 10, she was taken in tow by the Marine Retreiver and Marshall Foss to be taken to Southern Recycling in New Orleans via the Panama Canal. Click here for a video of her final passage under the Golden Gate.

The other ships of the class, USS SURIBACHI (AE-21); USS MAUNA KEA (AE22); USS NITRO (AE-23); USS PYRO (AE-24); USS HALEAKALA (AE25) have also been removed from service. May they all rest in peace.

SHIPS MOTTO "NOBODY DOES IT BETTER"

Robert Smith, Historian, USS Pyro Association

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